Written in response to Lara's bio-change by Crystal Dynamics back in the time of TR Legend.
Eyeing her surroundings suspiciously, Lara stalked across the darkened shrine, barely taking note of the prize she was approaching.
It lay there on a central plinth, illuminated by a shaft of light shining down directly from above, its entrance a small aperture in the buckling, vine-infested roof.
Lara didn't care to notice. The path in had been free from traps, and she wasn't about to be lulled into a false sense of security. Any second, poisoned arrows could shoot forth from the walls. The floor could shake and fall out from beneath her. Hidden dam walls could burst, sending thousands of gallons of water from the nearby river crashing in to drown her in the underground chambers.
Each footstep could trigger a defence.
Reaching the plinth, she gingerly placed one foot onto the step surrounding it and, slowly, applied her weight.
Biting her lip in concentration and apprehension, she carefully brought the other foot up to join it.
Looking around, Lara checked for any telltale movements of ancient mechanisms about to give. There seemed to be none, so she turned her attention back to the golden crescent moon and slowly, carefully, a grin spreading across her face as she did so, picked it up. And immediately-
-with a sharp, deep breath, her eyes flew open. Something had woken her.
She lay still for a moment, listening, but there was no sound. It must have been the old house knocking, or something equally small.
Letting out a wordless murmur of contentment, she hiked the warm duvet up around her neck and turned to her side.
There was somebody else in the bed.
Unsure what was even happening at first, she gave a wordless shout of surprise and immediately grabbed for the knife that was always under her pillow, but, despite scrabbling for it with frantic fingers, she couldn't locate it. There was nothing there, it had gone, and the person had been woken by the commotion.
Sitting up sharply, they turned to her, and Lara propelled herself backwards, away from them, falling out of the bed and landing on the floor, pushing herself back further until she was backed up against the nearby dresser and brandishing the decorative letter opener that lay on top.
The intruder flicked on a bedside lamp and peered down at her, tiredness and confusion creasing their features and clearly evident in their voice when they spoke.
"Laura? What's wrong? Nightmare?"
"Kurtis? What on earth?" She stammered, unable to continue for a moment, too taken aback. "You're dead! You're – what are you – what are you doing in my bed? How did you get into my house?"
"Dead?" The man – who seemed to be the long-dead Kurtis Trent, looking much healthier than the corpse she had found in the Strahov five years before - sounded confused. "No, honey, I think you were dreaming. Come on, come back to bed."
He lowered himself back down, turning onto his back and letting himself fall quickly back towards slumber.
"That is my bed," Lara accused angrily. "I will not come back to it until you're out of it." She stood, wielding the letter opener with white knuckles and taking a few threatening steps towards him. "Who are you? What do you want?"
Her reply was an incredulous look and an exasperated tone of voice. "Laura! Put that down and come back to bed." Again, he tried to settle back into the pillows.
"My name is not Laura!" the woman thundered, stamping around to the side of the bed – her bed – in which he shamelessly lay and pointing the make-shift weapon in his direction once more, though she kept her distance. He could have had all sorts of weapons on him under the bedclothes, and she wasn't going to push an advantage she might not have.
Kurtis, giving a short sigh of disbelief, regarded her with narrowed, bemused eyes.
"Laura," he said at last, "I'm really not in the mood for this. Go to bed. You'll wake Kara."
"Kara?! Who is Kara?" Lara threw her eyes skyward, arms spreading.
"Our daughter?" Kurtis glared, what little patience he had that early in the morning quickly wearing thin. Looking to the clock, he sighed and rolled his eyes. "I'll get up," he muttered, throwing back the covers to reveal no weapons, only a pair of jogging bottoms, and bare feet.
"The alarm'll be going off soon anyway, I might as well just get an early start and miss the traffic." He sounded annoyed.
Walking quickly around the bed to the bathroom on the other side, he disappeared into the small en-suite and shut the door forcefully behind him.
Lara stared at the closed door and blinked, confounded.
Thinking quickly, she darted back to the dresser and pulled open the top drawer. Her work-out and expedition clothes were gone, replaced by neatly folded tops that were in the sort of style she'd wear, but definitely not the sort of colours. Baby pink? Staring at it in dismay for a moment, she slid the drawer shut and hurried to her wardrobe.
Opening that, she found no climbing boots and no snow-jacket.
Turning away, looking around for other changes, her eyes fell upon a photograph in a modern chrome frame displayed on the television cabinet. She crossed the room, snatching up the picture and glaring at it with narrowed eyes. Her, in a simple ivory-coloured wedding dress with her hands and chin resting on the shoulder of Kurtis beside her, looking sharp and polished in a dark grey suit. How on earth had they managed to doctor a photo with her in a pose she'd never struck before?
A growing horror inside her, she replaced the photo with such revulsion that it may as well have shown her own corpse. Her gaze shot towards her left hand – a patterned golden ring was now adorning the fourth finger, warm with her own body heat.
She backed up, turning slowly towards the full-length mirror on the inside of her still-open wardrobe door. Taking a breath, steeling herself for what she might see, she stepped into view.
Her hair was red. How had they dyed her hair red without her knowing? She clawed at it, taking two handfuls and pulling harshly, almost wanting to rip it out, her face contorted in repulsion and rage. What had they done? How could they have violated her like this? Her own bedroom. Her own appearance!
She snatched a pair of shoes – her own shoes – from her wardrobe shelf and yanked them on, turning and dashing out of the bedroom, leaving the door wide open.
Down the stairs she flew, racing to the front door and frantically unlocking it, fleeing down the long gravel driveway, her footsteps crunching noisily on the stones. She pulled open the heavy gates, ran on down the short track to the main road, stopped at the roadside.
Away to the right in the distance she could see the twinkling lights of Mr Shardlow's house reaching through the cold dawn, the farmer up early as usual to begin his work. To the left, there was the faint dark outline of the large, gnarled tree at the bend of the road, the only noticeable form in the otherwise fixture-less view.
Lara turned back to the mansion, staring up at the grand stonework, noting the tiny details that time had burned into her memory.
It was her house. It was her house in her area. She hadn't been kidnapped and placed to wake up in some sick television studio. It was still her territory. That was both a small comfort, and also upsetting. At least if she'd been in some mock up then she'd know that her home, her privacy, hadn't been touched by unwelcome, dirty hands.
Even if that were true, it wouldn't change the fact that they'd touched her.
Slowly, she moved to the fountain and sat on the stone edging, pulling her hair over her shoulder and examining the ends in the light from the blue lamp that shone down from the statue, flooding the feature in a pool of soft light throughout the hours of darkness.
What had they done to her beautiful hair? How could they? It was ruined. Ruined.
Unable to part herself from it, she ripped off the ring instead, hurling it into the fountain in a fit of rage as she stood, body rigid but trembling, fighting to keep her mind clear.
Somebody would pay for this.
"Laura? What are you doing? Come back inside!"
She turned to see Kurtis jogging across the lawn towards her, now dressed in a suit, the front door pulled to behind him instead of gaping wide as she had left it.
Lara didn't answer, just regarding him with cold, calculating eyes.
"Come inside! It's freezing! What are you doing?"
Again, she didn't answer, pushing past him and storming back to the manor.
"Laura!" His voice was softer now, calling to her across the frosty gardens, concern, or perhaps regret, evident. "What's going on? Are you ok?"
"Were you going to work?" she pointedly threw over her shoulder as she made for the kitchen.
Kurtis came to a halt, defeated.
There were no further hypocritical demands for explanation from him, and as she poured herself some cereal, she heard the front door close and the sound of a car engine start up and fade away down the driveway.
Lara finished her large breakfast not long after six, allowing its different courses to comfort and calm her as it replaced all energy lost by sleep and prepared her for what she was sure was going to be a trying day. Putting away the last of the dishes, she cynically wondered how long it would be before her beloved offspring, Kara, showed her face.
She played along, then, waiting for the next stage of their act patiently, only nonchalantly checking drawers and cupboards throughout the kitchen and then the adjacent lounge, all the rage that grew from everything she found that was different, missing or out of place, getting locked away deep inside, where it fuelled a throttled yet tumultuous anger. She wasn't going to let herself lose control. There was something about playing along that made her planned revenge seem all the slicker and more satisfying. It perhaps, she mused, had something to do with the concept of certainty.
"Can I have my breakfast in my room? I've got all my research for my project and I want to lock myself away and just spend all day getting it written up. Can I have dinner up there too?"
The young, enquiring voice came from the doorway, and Lara turned back from the bookcase and its unfamiliar selection of old childrens' books to find the girl that had supposedly once owned them.
"Kara," she said politely.
Kara blinked, looking a bit unsure. She was already dressed, in loose, brown jogging bottoms and a pink hooded top, obviously ready to spend the day crawling around a bedroom between books and papers spread out over the floor. The girl seemed to be about twelve years old and, Lara had to admit, had been cast well – she could definitely see the resemblance to both 'parents', not least in the accent that had a definite tinge of American.
"Of course," Lara smiled then. "I'll make it, shall I? What would you like?"
Taking the opportunity to subtly find out which room was her daughter's room and just what they'd done to it, Lara helped the girl carry the breakfast upstairs. Halfway along the landing, a sudden horrific realisation hit her – Winston. Where was Winston? She was so used to him not emerging from his room until just after eight o clock, having long ago persuaded him to forego early morning duties due to his advanced age, that it hadn't occurred to her that he, too, must have been a victim in the revolting charade.
The worry grew as she realised that it was for Winston's room that Kara was heading, and as she pushed the door open and led the way in, Lara had to contain both a gasp, and her temper.
Winston was nowhere to be seen, and the room had been completely redecorated. The colour scheme had changed from navy and green to pink and silver, and the traditional furniture, priceless and interred since before Lara had inherited the building, had been replaced with chrome and pine. The only original features left were those that couldn't be altered or removed without damaging them – the panelling on the lower half of the walls, the small stone gargoyles, and the fireplace above which they hung.
"Thanks, mum," Kara said, placing her fruit salad and yoghurt down on the low table and pushing aside school books to make room for the drink and toast that Lara carried.
Lara didn't answer, just quickly put down the breakfast and turned, hurrying out and running down the stairs, her face stern and her fist clenched.
"Winston!" she called, beginning to dash from room to room, looking inside each before skittering across the halls to check the next. "Winston, are you here?"
She couldn't find him, and her anger was quickly turning to fear and panic. She'd awoken to a nightmare. Everything was too different, her tormentors were too assured in their roles, an entire mansion changed overnight - it all seemed too real. How? How could anyone possibly have pulled this off?
Guns. She needed her guns. The nearest was a pistol in the study drawer. Lara ran, racing down the hall and skidding through the doorway before seizing upon the desk and wrenching open the top drawer.
The weapon wasn't there.
It wasn't under the false bottom, it wasn't in any of the other desk drawers, or in those of the display cabinet. Papers, books and ornaments were swept aside, littering the floor, unnoticed, as Lara tore the room apart looking.
At last, she accepted it. Like the knife that she slept with, her gun had been known to these people, and it had been removed.
She stood in the middle of the chaos, looking around with unsure, frightened eyes.
Suddenly, she spun and pounced on the phone, snatching up the receiver from the desk and dialling Jean-Yves' number.
She was just waiting for it to connect when her eyes caught upon the glittering of a familiar, jewelled object. Being used as a paperweight and partially hidden under a bank statement earlier thrown aside, it was cold in her hand as she took hold of it.
It was an Egyptian amulet that she and Jean-Yves' had found, and Jean had kept.
It shouldn't have been in her mansion.
The familiar recorded voice of the BT automated system took Lara's attention back to the phone.
"We are sorry," the voice said woodenly, "but the number you have dialled is not in service."
The receiver tumbled from Lara's hand.
"Who are they? Who are you working for?"
A frightened Kara fell back from her as Lara burst through the bedroom door, screaming questions and advancing fiercely.
"What have they done with Winston and Jean-Yves?"
There was no intention to hurt the child, but there was the intention to scare her.
Already running, Kara scrambled across the bed, screaming for her mother to stop. There was a method to her madness as she snatched up her mobile phone on the far bedside table and then made for the door, screaming again as Lara lunged forward to grab at the girl's arm.
She was just out of reach, though, and Kara ran straight over the low coffee table and out of the open door, turning towards the nearest staircase and tearing down it. She screamed again as she tripped, just managing to stop herself falling by hanging onto the banister.
In that instant, Lara, close behind her quarry, vaulted over the railings to the floor, cutting off the intended escape.
Instinctively, Kara turned and started back up the stairs, Lara still taking chase. The girl was yelping and screeching, close to tears, but still managing to put some thought into her actions.
Racing along the landing, she tore open the door halfway along and waited behind it for a second, slamming it back outwards with all her weight just as Lara was about to barrel through, knocking her back against the wall and drawing a cry of pain.
It put vital seconds between them, leaving Lara only just in time to see her target turn down the stairs some way down the landing and clatter down their bare wooden steps, looking terrified. Kara was yanking open the door back to the main hall just as Lara was halfway down the stairs after her, and by the time she reached the main hall, the front door was open and Kara was nowhere in sight.
Lara rushed out, coming to a halt on the driveway and looking around.
Crushed flowers in the border at the edge of the garden just past the house caught her eye, and she ran to them. The escape had been made through a hole between the stems of the hedge, where part of the plant had been cut out two years previously due to disease and the surviving greenery grown back together to close the gap above.
Lying down, she could see Kara disappearing off across the fields. She couldn't be caught now – the hole was too small for Lara, and by the time she'd gone out through the main gates, the distance would be far too great to cover.
Swearing to herself, she punched the earth and then stalked back to the house.
Returning to the study, she switched on the computer, refreshed her internet home page, and checked the date. It was definitely the date she expected it to be; that is, she could be sure that the changes had taken place overnight and she hadn't been drugged for several days. That was a small consolation, at least.
She sighed harshly, angry with herself for letting her temper and fear get the better of her and lead her to go over the top in her confrontation with the girl. If she'd been more subtle, she could have grabbed the kid first and then started demanding answers.
But, the damage was done and now Lara had to think.
It was disconcerting to find that she couldn't. The situation was too different, too unusual. She had no idea what to do.
Pouring herself a drink, she was unpleasantly surprised to see herself shaking, and to find herself gulping down the burning whisky a little too desperately. Her eyes were darting everywhere, her weight leant heavily against the sideboard, her breathing somewhat laboured.
"Hold it together," she scolded herself. "You've been through far worse."
That wasn't true, a part of her thought. She'd always had some sort of lead as to what her next actions should have been. Here, she was completely lost, floating in a nightmarish limbo of supposed insanity.
That was obviously precisely what they'd wanted. By putting no pressure on her to take any one action, by not giving any hint at all as to their motives, by just acting as if everything was real and she was the one who didn't fit, they were taking away her control, leaving her helpless, forcing her to wait.
It was working, she had to admit. Wringing her hands, she turned away from the drinks cabinet lest she should make it too much of a crutch, and tried to think.
The police were the only option that came to mind.
She'd need proof.
There wasn't any proof in the mansion, it was all just a lie, right down to the tiniest detail.
Mr Shardlow from the farm down the road. He knew she lived alone. He would help.
Finding her car keys, she trotted off to the garage and rolled away down the drive in her Land Rover, turning towards the farm and slowly negotiating the dirt tracks leading off around the fields as she looked for him working somewhere.
Time passed with only silent crops and indifferent herds and eventually her only option was to try the farmhouse, though why he'd be there instead of out working, she didn't know.
Ringing the doorbell, she waited impatiently, desperate for someone outside of the lie to offer a genuine hand, assure her that the world hadn't gone mad, that she hadn't somehow fallen through a crack into an alternate reality where Lara Croft didn't exist.
The old panelled door was pulled back, and Mr Shardlow blinked at her.
"Mr Shardlow, I– " Suddenly, Lara realised what he had called her. A movement at the back of the hall behind him caught her eye, and she saw Kara step timidly into view, staring back at her, biting a nail.
"Laura, are you feeling alright?"
"They got to you, too." Lara began to back away, her face written in complete disbelief. "Whatever it is they're doing, whatever it is they're paying…I can better it."
She turned and sprinted, jumping back into the car and reversing it sharply back onto the road, her knuckles white against the wheel as she drove it far too fast down the road towards town, engine screaming.
Her breathing was fast now, her mind racing, a little part of her only too aware that she was almost completely unravelled.
She needed to get out of the situation, get to a café or a library or a hotel – somewhere where she could detach herself and regain some control, away from their influence. That way she would be able to think, find people that knew her that they hadn't got to, reassure herself that there was a way out.
The country road was narrow, and the car coming in the opposite direction forced Lara to slow and edge over. It began to do the same, but then at the last moment it swung across the front of her and stopped, wedged across the road, blocking her exit.
From the driver's seat of the silver Mercedes, Kurtis stared back at her.
Caught in a sudden wave of fear and anger once more, Lara held his gaze with one of pure fury for a moment before slamming the car into reverse and backing it up for a three point turn.
Her antagonist flung open his door and leapt out, tearing towards the jerking Land Rover with his footsteps beating on the frosty track and, jumping back as it began to turn and nearly ran him over, dived for the car door and wrenched it open.
He pulled himself inside as Lara took it swerving away in the opposite direction and caught at her arm as she tried to lash out at him.
"Laura! Stop!" He was pulling at her, trying to make it impossible for her to drive, trying to reach over and pull the car keys from the ignition.
"Get off me!" Lara cried, thumping at his chest, over and over again, beating on the same spot, fighting back as best she could whilst still trying to drive. She was taking fast glances at him, her expression thunderous, her teeth bared. "Tell me who you are! Why are you doing this?"
"Laura, just stop! Please! You'll get us killed!"
Kurtis pushed her arm down into her lap, held it there with his weight as he leaned across her, tried to physically lift her leg from the accelerator.
"Get off me!"
Lara's hand slipped, the wheel jerked. The vehicle careered down the bank into the ditch. Their screams and struggles were silenced with a crash as the Land Rover collided with the back of the ditch and flipped forwards, the back rising into the air for one slow, almost graceful moment, before crashing back down to the earth and coming to rest, still, on its side.
Lara slowly, painfully, cracked open an eye. The ceiling above her was that of her second living room, and she was lying on a couch, one arm suffering from pins and needles as it hung lifelessly over the side.
Sitting up and looking around properly revealed the silent room to be empty, and the double doors shut.
Wind was visible in the harsh swaying of the tree outside of the bay window, and the lawns in view past that were cold, dull and deserted.
Screwing her eyes shut as her head sang, Lara swung her feet to the floor and then, slowly, managed to stand.
She crossed to the doors and tried to open them. They gave slightly, but remained closed. Locked. She rattled them a little more, testing them further, and then, grimacing in anger, gave up.
She hurried to the only other door, leading into the adjacent games room. That, too, had been locked.
"Kurtis!" she cried, her voice half irritated and half threatening, rattling the double doors once more and calling through to the foyer on the other side. "Kurtis! Open this door!"
"Kurtis! God damn it, open these doors! Answer me! Kurtis! So help me, I'll…" She didn't finish her threat; she could tell that she had a concussion and the stress of the mind games certainly wasn't helping matters. Letting out a defeated sigh, she just leant her pained and weary body forwards against the doors, dipping her head to rest it against the cool wood.
From her new position, she could just make out approaching voices.
"So Kara was quite insistent that her mother attacked her?"
"She had my secretary call me out of a merger meeting – she knows doing that is no joke."
"And your neighbour's agreed to look after her as long as necessary?"
"Yeah. We didn't tell her about the crash, she's scared enough already."
"I'd like to talk to Laura alone."
A moment later, there was a light knock at the door, and Lara moved quickly back.
"Ms Croft? It's Doctor Spivey. Do you remember me?"
"Doctor! Yes, of course!" Lara's voice was filled with relief. He wouldn't have turned on her, would he? Not after all those years of being her doctor. And besides, doctors weren't allowed to do harm, were they?
"May I come in?"
She nodded pointlessly before realising how silly that was, and quickly gave her assent.
"Ms Croft," he smiled amiably, slipping in through the barely open door. It was almost as if he wanted to shield her from Kurtis. "How do you feel? I saw the car still in the ditch – it looks like you could have hit the roof quite hard."
Lara put a hand to her head, blinking tiredly at the nuisance of her injury. "I have a slight concussion but it's really nothing too terrible. Dr Spivey, that man out there—"
"Is not your husband?"
"Yes! As you and I both well know." She moved forward, holding his gaze and taking his arms. Her breathing was deep, signalling her stress. "There's a girl they're saying is my daughter, and Winston is gone. My friend's phone number has been disconnected, and Mr Shardlow up the road is in on their twisted little charade. You know me, and you have good standing. We need to contact the police and have you corroborate my story so that instead of just writing me off as crazy, they'll actually bother to check and see that I am who I say I am."
"I think we should check that concussion."
The doctor moved away and placed his bag on a nearby table, delving inside. Lara, following him, spread her arms wide.
"The concussion is the least of my worries!
"That's for me to decide. Now, sit down." He pointed to the couch and waited for her to comply, a stern look brooking no argument. Lara, however, remained where she was, and met his gaze with a rather challenging one of her own.
"Can you tell me what you did yesterday, Ms Croft?" Spivey asked.
His question invoking an immediate and involuntary casting back of her mind, Lara frowned as she realised that she was having trouble grabbing hold of any specific memory.
"I…" She shook her head, trying to clear it. "I went out somewhere. I think. It's all rather vague."
Her doctor frowned, gathering up his bag. "Your concussion may be worse than you think. I'm going to take you to the hospital."
"The hospital?" Lara's face brightened as a thought occurred to her. "Yes! Yes, that's a great idea. I've made so many trips there over the years they practically know me. And they'll have medical records that will show me to be exactly who I know myself to be. Doctor, let's go."
"Ms Croft? I'm Doctor Louise Newman. How are you feeling?"
Lara, perched on an examination bed, smiled as the doctor shut the door behind her. "Do you have my medical records?"
Doctor Newman paused for a moment, a polite smile on her face and her clipboard held to her chest. "Yes, of course.
"Ms Croft. Doctor Spivey tells me that you believe that you're the victim of a conspiracy of sorts, to create a false identity for you."
Lara narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean, 'believe'?" she enunciated.
The doctor lowered herself into a chair, a patronisingly soft expression on her face all the while. "You say your name is Lara, not Laura?"
"It is Lara," was the reply, with a growing hint of anger.
"And the man out there is not your husband?"
"I've never married."
The clipboard was proffered. "Is this your medical history?"
Lara took it, scanning over the initial fields containing all the lies that she'd been fed all day.
"You're not here about my concussion, are you?" Lara asked, tossing the clipboard onto the bed beside her and glaring at Newman contentiously.
To her credit, Lara thought, the other woman had the grace to look contrite. "No, I'm not." She stood and retrieved the file, flipping to a second page and holding it out to her patient. "Is any of this familiar to you?"
Lara didn't take the clipboard. "You think I'm delusional."
Louise moved to sit next to Lara, and positioned the file so that Lara could see it, even if she wouldn't take it. "Do you remember your recent pregnancy?"
"I've never been pregnant in my life," Lara sniffed, turning her head away.
"You miscarried," Doctor Newman continued gently.
"So what?" Lara's reply, voice raised and eyes blazing, signalled a sudden loss of control. "The single, childless and independent Lara Croft is a delusion created by a family-woman to protect her from the trauma? Is that what you think?"
"That's a very specific conclusion."
"Oh for god's sake," Lara began, hand on her forehead, turning away in disbelief. "I know how you people think, so suddenly I must know the truth, I'm just denying it? I'm leaving."
She grabbed her coat from the chair and strode towards the door, leaving Newman hopping back out of the way to avoid a collision. Yanking it open, she let the door bang against the wall and stormed outside.
She was met by Kurtis and Doctor Spivey, standing to receive her. Lara paused for a moment and then strolled over to them, a poisonous smile on her face.
"You're in on this too, are you?" she said to Spivey.
"Laura," he began softly, cut off almost immediately by Lara's explosive denial.
"I am not Laura!"
"Honey, come on—" Kurtis interjected, reaching for her. Lara jumped back, snatching her arm out of his reach, snarling at him.
"Don't you dare touch me!"
Her raised voice and defensive body language did not go unnoticed.
"Now come on," Kurtis began again, "you're causing a scene here."
"You want a scene? I'll cause a bloody scene!"
She drew back a fist and punched him squarely in the jaw, leaving him groaning and clutching at his chin.
The small waiting area was stunned into silence.
The doctor stepped forwards, arms out in a show of surrender. "Now, Ms Croft,"
"Oh, so it's Ms Croft now, is it? Trying not to provoke me now?"
"Oh, don't give me that." Lara spat the rebuke at him.
Another voice joined in from behind her, and Lara spun to find Doctor Newman standing at a safe distance and doing her best to radiate some sort of calm. "Ms Croft, please calm down and we'll talk this through."
"Talk this through?! Half of you are trying to drive me crazy, the other half of you think I already am!"
"Laura," Kurtis tried again, but his words were doomed. As he began to speak, he placed one hand on her shoulder and another on her waist, and tried to gently turn her.
She obliged immediately, but only as she responded with a sharp jab of her elbow to his chest, winding him, and a heavy punch to the side of his face.
The attack brought shouting and struggling and scuffling, strong hands pulling at her arms and shoulders, an arm around her waist, two burly orderlies coming at her from behind and bodily lifting her off her feet, pulling her away from her false husband and over towards a bed that had appeared in the corridor.
Lara was screaming, writhing, kicking, raising as much hell as she could muster as she fought a losing battle against being subdued. The threats and violent promises she spat and shrieked as she was pinned down on the clean, white sheets did nothing to help her cause.
"Ms Croft!" Newman was standing over her, shouting her down. "Will you calm down or shall I sedate you?"
Lara's answer was a hard, silent glare as she continued to fight against her captors. "If you're in on this, Newman," she whispered fiercely, "you'll regret it."
She took a deep breath to force her temper into check, and then Lara opened the office door.
Inside, Doctor Newman was sat in her usual armchair opposite the sofa, making light pencil notes on some documents. Finishing a moment later, she looked up and greeted Lara with a warm smile. "Ms Croft, please sit down."
Lara did as she was asked.
"I'm told that Doctor Caulfield has already spoken to you about the Trust's acceptance of our application to extend your stay here. Do you have anything about that that you want to discuss?"
"Another six months of forced treatment in a mental institution with my only hope being an appeal from my darling husband who'd rather I stay here? What could I possibly want to discuss? The injustice? The abandonment? The fact that no-one will even let me begin to prove that I am who I say I am?"
"I understand that this will be difficult for you. You've only been here two weeks; there's still a lot of adjustment to be done. For what it's worth, I think you're dealing remarkably well with these changes."
Lara let out a disgusted sigh, turning her gaze away to the blustery garden outside the French windows as she flopped back into her seat. Doctor Newman, however, kept her focus purely on her patient.
"Is there anything that you'd like Kurtis to bring in from home, or anything we might be able to supply that you think you'd want now that you're going to be here a while longer?"
"I want to change rooms," Lara sniffed. "My neighbour thinks she can go through mirrors into hell and she disturbs my peace by shouting for her son all night. I can't sleep."
"Ah," Newman said, looking inconvenienced. "Perhaps some light sedatives… How do you get on with the other patients? The ones whose problems are more…visible?"
Lara glared. In other words, she was being asked how she saw herself fitting in with the mentally unhinged. "Can we just get on with the session, please?"
The doctor paused for a moment and then got up and moved across the large, cluttered office to the window. There were all sorts of props and aids lying around – books stacked on tables, toys and drawing materials for helping particularly disturbed and younger patients work through whatever nightmares plagued them, a coffee filter and a small fridge… Lara had decided that the overcrowded mess was at least partly by design, to try and create a homely and secure atmosphere. Everything in that hospital, everything to do with those Doctors, it was all about condescending and patronising attempts to manipulate people into conforming with their thoughts and feelings and behaving the way people thought that they should. It angered her, vexed her, drove her growing urge to execute every one of them.
There was a toy pram partially hidden behind the window curtain, and Newman rummaged in it for a moment before turning back with a naked plastic doll in her hands.
Seeing it, Lara's mouth fell open in a silent exclamation of wonder at just how low they could set the hoops that she was forced to jump through. She rolled her eyes and folded her arms.
"I want you to hold this," Newman said.
Lara took it by one stiff arm, and then looked at it, unimpressed.
"Hold it properly, as if it were a real baby. How does it make you feel?"
Still resentfully amazed by the whole affair, Lara didn't bother to hide her reaction as she obliged.
"Nothing. I feel nothing," she said shortly.
"Nothing at all? What about thoughts rather than just feelings?"
"It leaves me cold. I've never had a maternal instinct."
Newman smiled and reached out for the doll. "That's just fine." She got up and returned the doll to the pram, taking care to lay it back down carefully and tuck it in. "Let's just make sure she's nice and warm," she smiled to Lara. "Now, I want to go back to the morning that you say it all began. You say that you want to try and prove you are Lara Croft, so let's start putting together a detailed account of everything that's happened and work out what we definitely do know to be true. How does that sound?"
Lara was deep in thought, working hard. She and Doctor Newman had made a start on the list of Lara's claims, dividing them into those could be proven, those that couldn't be, those that had evidence that Lara agreed with, and those that had evidence that she disagreed with. She had then spent the time since then in her room, outlining further evidence that could be collected and her reasoning against existing evidence she disputed.
Looking at it so far with a sinking heart, she could understand that in an age of data, open to manipulation and corruption, singular truths were often very difficult to pin down.
There was a knock from behind her.
Turning in her seat, she regarded the area curiously. The bed was the centrepiece there, all brown metal frame and thin, aging mattress with a generic blue duvet, set along the wall. Lara narrowed her eyes, getting up off her chair and stalking over. There seemed to be a shadow rising up across the cold, painted wall slightly from behind the bed, as if something was underneath there.
It shot downwards and disappeared, drawing a gasp from Lara.
Quickly, she dropped to her knees and peered under the bed. There was nothing there – just dust and fluff and her suitcase. She pulled it out, checking there was nothing hiding behind it, but there was only empty space.
Frowning in confusion, Lara sat back on her haunches and wondered what she could have seen. It was probably just one of those things with a simple explanation that she'd never find. She shrugged and returned to her writing.
Not a minute had passed when a fierce whisper sounded in her ear.
"I see the moon."
She jumped, turning and staring once again. Nothing.
"Hey!" she called out. "Neighbour! Are you talking?" Her neighbour didn't answer, but crazed as she was, that really didn't mean anything. Lara sighed in annoyance.
It was late and she hadn't slept properly in the two weeks that she'd been kept prisoner. Throwing down her pen, she slipped into bed and flicked off her light, pulling the covers up around her tightly. Blinking back a tear, she screwed her eyes shut and tried to sleep.
"Are you still having trouble sleeping?" was the first thing Doctor Newman said as Lara arrived for her psychotherapy three days later. "Why don't you try these? Two just before bed."
Lara stared at the transparent tub of blue capsules in Newman's hand, anger suddenly replacing her tiredness. "The sedatives are for me? I thought you meant for my neighbour."
Newman dropped her gaze. "There isn't enough room to move you, I'm afraid this is all we can do. They really will help you to sleep through the noise." Lara didn't take the pills, just stared back.
Smiling brightly, Newman just put the pills down on the table between them, pushing them slightly towards Lara, and changed the subject. "You had your time on the internet last night. How did you get on with finding those newspaper articles about your accident in Egypt?"
Lara's anger flared again as she was reminded of her unsuccessful research the previous evening. "I couldn't find anything."
"Half an hour is not very long, and half of the internet sites I tried are filtered out. I couldn't look properly."
"But surely, if the event was on the local news, and even had some national mention, then a quick Google would at least turn up some telling page summaries?"
"A quick Google telling Kurtis and his cronies exactly which pages to hack into and delete?"
"Oh, Laura," Newman sighed, gaining a fervent reproach.
"You agreed to call me Ms Croft!"
The doctor nodded, appropriately scolded. "Of course, I'm sorry."
"Why do you think I'd make up something so awful, anyway?"
"My medical opinion, assuming that you were indeed Laura," she began, quickly adding the caveat as Lara's eyes narrowed, "would be that you created it as a past trauma successfully emotionally dealt with, unlike Laura's miscarriage, and with an air of exoticism and adventure, to distance yourself from the role of wife and mother and therefore from the reason that you have such pain in the first place."
Lara glared at her for a moment, enraged, and then forced herself to relax. Her anger was becoming increasingly difficult to control under the stress but she knew she had to – as much as she hated having to bow to their control, she had to play their game. Being deemed a risk to her family and any others who provoked her was why the hospital had been given permission to detain her in the first place.
She decided to broach something that had been nagging at her for some time, with growing intensity. She was by no means an A-list celebrity, but she did have some fame, especially in her local area. And yet, no-one seemed to have heard of her, recognised her, remembered her exploits. An entire psychiatric hospital, just a few miles from her estate, couldn't have been on Trent's payroll.
"Let me ask you something, Doctor," she said, her manner suddenly cold and calculating. "Who do you think I am?"
"That's something for us to conclude together."
"No – perhaps I phrased the question poorly. Who do you think Laura Croft is? How did she get that big house? Why doesn't she share her husband's surname? Everyone tells me that I'm Laura, but no-one has explained to me why she evidently has an unusual lifestyle."
A flash of worry showed on Newman's face for a split second, but she quickly composed herself.
"Just like Lara, Laura was born to the upper class. She inherited the house from her father when she was twenty-one – it was one of three estates in his name and he gave one to her when she came of age. She's the only daughter and the youngest fully noble-blooded member of the extended family. The true line effectively ends with you since your husband has no birthright and your daughter is therefore only half noble. That's why you keep your surname."
"And Kara?" Lara raised an eyebrow.
"She's a Trent."
"And her father's a gold digger," Lara said wryly to herself, wondering if perhaps that was the reason behind the whole charade.
"Do you think? He was an extremely wealthy financial executive even before you met him – you were moving in the same social circles."
Lara folded her arms and looked amused. "I suppose he can prove his history, unlike some." She paused and then continued as a thought occurred to her. "Are my parents alive?"
Remaining in her casual, cross-legged position in her chair, unfazed by the answer, Newman simply replied, "No. I'm told your mother died when you were a child and your father some years later."
Lara was confident that her parents were still alive, and out there somewhere, even if there were fake graves in place. Surely the double murder of two people Lara hadn't had contact with in years was too far even for Kurtis – or whoever was in charge. "I'd like to arrange a field trip to see the graves," Lara said, smiling self-assuredly.
"Actually," Newman smiled, "I think that might be a very good idea."
"Contacting the local paper is risky," Lara murmured to herself as she queued with her tray for dinner that evening. "They're likely already in on this, and if Kurtis doesn't know already, then this will alert him that I'm gathering evidence. Who will have documentation about my accident? The Egyptian authorities?"
Ethereal, airy, almost echoing, a soft song started up around Lara.
"I see the moon and the moon sees me, the moon sees the somebody I'd like to see."
Lara wasn't aware of it at first.
"God bless the moon and God bless me, God bless the somebody I'd like to see!"
Roused from her thoughts, Lara looked around to find the singer. It was a child's voice, but there were no children housed in the hospital, and the only woman nearby who looked small enough to have such a timbre wasn't close enough. The voice had been almost in Lara's ear.
"Did you hear somebody singing?" she said to the man behind her. He laughed.
"You hear all sorts of things in this place. Some of it's even real."
"Schizophrenia?" she asked, unphased by the frightening ambiguity of his comment.
"No, but I am on the meds."
As she had every mealtime, Lara ate in silence and alone, seating herself near those she knew were too far gone to notice her. The food was nice enough but it was still beginning to taste bland, losing a little bit more flavour every day. Her appetite was also waning, her anger becoming replaced more often than not with despondency. Sleep deprivation wasn't helping matters.
"God damn neighbour," she hissed, rubbing her forehead tiredly. She felt so stressed all of a sudden, so worn down.
It was only early evening, but she had to sleep. Standing, she disposed of the rest of her dinner in the nearby bins, starting a pile of trays on top, and left the dining room. Lara went straight back to her room, readying herself for bed hurriedly at her sink and then slipping under the covers. Sitting there in the dark for a moment, considering, she at last gave in and popped the lid off the sedatives on her bedside table, dry-swallowing two of them desperately. She settled down to sleep, clutching at her pounding temples.
"I see the moon and the moon sees me."
She awoke to the sound suddenly, sitting bolt upright. It was dark, the sun having set and the corridor lights having been dimmed for the night. Looking at her clock, she saw it was a little after ten – she'd been asleep some three hours.
There was nothing but silence, but Lara was certain that she'd heard that singing again, louder this time.
"The moon sees the somebody I'd like to see."
Lara gasped as the next line was uttered, slamming her hand down on the switch for the bedside light and quickly scanning the room for the intruder. It was definitely a little girl's voice.
Getting out of bed, Lara made for the window and drew back the thin curtains, peering out into the dim garden. It was shadowed and peaceful, lit slightly by small lamps at intervals along the paths, rather a juxtaposition to the eerie atmosphere in her room. It seemed to be empty and she could see no telltale movements of children hiding in the leafy bushes under her window.
"God bless the moon."
Those words had not been sung, but spoken by that same child, and Lara whirled, instinctively reaching for guns that weren't there.
She was confronted with a young girl. No more than about seven or eight years old, she was wearing a skirt with opaque white tights and a thick jumper. Her long brown hair and wide brown eyes gave her an innocent, trusting look.
Lara and the girl regarded each other for a moment, one warily, the other expectantly. A light wind rocked the bush outside the window and blustered past the glass.
The girl shot forwards at inhuman speed and leapt, leapt towards Lara so fast that the woman didn't even have time to react. With a blow that winded her, slammed her back hard against the wall, Lara was hit in the stomach as the girl dived for her, and then she was alone.
She cried out, the contact having been so hard that it was painful, leaving her clutching her tummy and doubled over.
"Nurse!" Lara screamed out in fury and fear, hitting her alarm button and repeating the call, louder that time. "Nurse!"
Footsteps clattered down the hall, getting louder, and then her door was thrown open, the duty nurse running to her side and dropping down next to her, hands on her back and shoulders pulling her up a little as she was worriedly asked what was wrong.
"What did you put in those pills?" Lara demanded, clawing for the pot and hurling them across the room, her teeth gritted. "What did you put in them?!"
"Now, Lara," the nurse cooed, patting Lara's back where she still crouched on the floor and using a name that wouldn't worsen the situation, "they're just sleeping pills. What happened?"
"I'm hallucinating," Lara accused, her voice shuddering. "You gave me something!"
"No, we—" the nurse began, but Lara's gaze shot upwards, locking onto something visible through the doorway.
"You!" she spat. She shoved her carer away and launched into a dead run, sprinting through the doorway and down the corridor towards the garden. Throwing herself at the fire escape doors, pressing down the bar with her full weight, she burst through them and came to an immediate halt on the patio. She scanned the gardens, looking.
The little girl was there, out in the middle of the lawns by the sundial, skipping around it in the moonlight, singing that same nursery rhyme in a breathless, childish voice.
Lara darted forwards once again, tearing across the grass in pursuit.
"You're the one!"
Alerted by the angered accusation, the girl stopped skipping with a gasp, a look of fear crossing her face. She was frozen in place, scared, as Lara hurtled towards her.
"You brought me here! I remember now! I remember!"
The words were uncharacteristically hysterical as Lara converged on the girl, her face thunderous, her hands reaching out and digging into the child's arms as Lara caught her.
"No! No, Mummy, no!" The girl struggled violently, twisting and turning in an effort to escape Lara's strong grip.
"I remember now! I remember!"
"Laura?!" the nurse called. She was approaching fast, her heeled shoes kicked off so that she could run unhindered, apprehension written across her features. "Laura!"
Two orderlies were a little behind her, following quickly, but they slowed as it became apparent that Lara wasn't going to fight back against the nurse's touch.
She just crouched there on the lawns by the sundial, shivering, unresponsive.
"Laura? Laura? Quick, get the duty doctor, she's catatonic."
Lara's eyelids flared, her head jerking to check her surroundings as she suddenly found herself back in the temple. It was as quiet and still as it had been just a moment before.
Her hand was clasped around the golden crescent moon, and she drew it closer and examined it as it shone in the small shaft of sunlight from above.
A triumphant grin drew across her face and she almost hugged herself in silent congratulations.
She turned and ran back out the way she had come, hopping lightly over a gap in the floor.
A quiet, echoing voice sounded faintly in the sanctuary.
"Laura? Laura, can you hear me?"
Disclaimer: The idea that a child of Lara's and Kurtis' might tritely be called, 'Kara', is just a KTEB in-joke. ;)